Horns lock at controversial buffalo fighting festival in Vietnam

Thousands of people gathered in the northern Vietnam beach town of Do Son on Saturday (September 7) for the annual water buffalo fight, a big festival that dates back hundreds.

A highlight in the region's sporting calendar local people spend months training their buffaloes for the contest, an ancient tradition which was halted during the Vietnam war, and only revived during recent years.

On the eve of the festival villagers pray in temples in the hope of bringing good fortune to their contestants, the buffalo is also blessed by the town elders in the morning of the fight

Each year a stadium filled with a crowd of 20,000 people, locals and tourists alike, cheer on the fighting animals despite concern from animal rights groups of the violence.

The buffaloes fight in pairs in an elimination contest, the two competitors lock horns for several minutes, sometimes just seconds, before one - often spattered with blood - signals defeat by running away.

The winner of the knockout competition this year, buffalo number "07".

Bui Xuan Khanh, owner of the champion said the victory had brought joy and honour to his village.

Traditionally the winning buffalo was sacrificed as a tribute to a local pagan "God of Water", in exchange for good weather and prosperity for the country.

But in recent years the buffalo are slaughtered to and sold as lucky potion for health and power right after the celebration ends.

The prices of the fighting buffalo's meat ranged between VND1-3 million (€39 - €117) per kilo, depending on which round of the tournament they reached.

Talking about the fate of his winning buffalo Khanh said he was resigned to his beloved animal's fate.

"No matter how much I love him, I have to accept it, because we sacrifice one individual in hope for the well being of the whole country."